Claiborne S. (C.S.) Fritts was born September 7, 1825, in what today is Lee County, West Virginia. He was the son of Henry and Lucinda Fritts. The family moved to Monroe County, Indiana in 1833 when Claiborne was eight years old, and then in1842, they moved to Madison County, Arkansas. C.S. was seventeen at the time of this last move.
Claiborne married Sarah Lawson in Madison County, Arkansas on January 3, 1847. Sarah was born in Tennessee on November 9, 1829; she was one of twelve children born to Maxwell and Anna (Gray) Lawson. Believe it or not, three of the Lawson children would eventually marry children of Henry Fritts! While living in Arkansas, Claiborne was a blacksmith and a farmer; he also eventually served as the Justice of the Peace in Madison County.
Like most couples of the day, Claiborne and Sarah had a baby almost immediately. Her name was Mary Jane Isabelle “Belle” Fritts, and she, of course, was the eldest child in the Fritts family. Between 1847 and 1861, Claiborne and Sarah had six children. I tell you this only because it was in that fateful year of 1861 that Claiborne would have to leave his family…leave them alone while he went off to fight a war. Young Mary Jane Isabelle, who was called Belle, could not have been quite fourteen years old.
Records show that thirty-six-year-old C.S. Fritts enlisted for twelve months on Nov. 22, 1861, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He was soon commissioned a 1st Lt. In Company G, 17th (Rector’s, now known as Griffith’s) Arkansas Infantry, CSA.
History records that by February of 1862, the Union Army had broken into Arkansas, and on February 18, the Yankees captured Bentonville. That same month, Claiborne Fritts was present for roll call, but sick. If he was ever present again, I have not been able to find it.
Of course all of this is leading toward the Battle of Pea Ridge. It was at Pea Ridge (March 7-8, 1862) that Texas’ dashing Ben McColloch lost his life; he was supposedly still wearing that famous velvet suit. The battle was lost to the Union.
It has been said that Claiborne Fritts did not like army life, and I guess my question would have to be, “Who did?”
Now as to the “rest of the story,” the family accounts differ, just as do those of the families of Deaton, Cross, Cunningham, Stokes, Bowman, Holmsley, McGuire, Lane, Kerley, McEntire, and all of the others who passed down stories of Comanche County. No two people watching the same event will ever remember exactly the same things about the event, and they certainly will not tell the story to others in exactly the same way.
Anyway, according to “our” line, supposedly, he felt like he needed to be home with his wife and children, and it wasn’t long until he did something about it, but first, all agree that he was wounded before he walked off of the job.
Not too long after the report which showed him ill was made, Claiborne returned to his home in Arkansas. He apparently told his family to get ready because they were going to Texas. Soon, the Fritts began their journey to Texas, traveling in a covered wagon with six or seven children, and another on the way.
For obvious reasons, Claiborne did not ride along with the wagon. Instead, he rode his horse, staying off of the main road and keeping to the brush, bushes, and trees. According to family sources, the Fritts family had some close calls; however, they finally arrived in Parker County, Texas late in 1862. Young Belle was fifteen years old.
It is believed that C.S. Fritts served with Company C, 1st Frontier District for twenty-five days in 1864. For this he was paid $2.00 per day. It would be interesting to know if he actually collected the $2.00 since most of the men serving at that time never saw their money.
It is also possible that Claiborne actually was in Company C for much longer that the twenty-five days but was only called out for that length of time. That might seem a little odd, however. By 1863-65, the area just north and west of Parker County, Texas was a powder keg waiting to explode. The Indian problem in that area was completely out of control, and the land was literally filled with deserters and much worse.
Many of the Texans living on what was the northwest frontier line during those years had been forced to evacuate or were forted up in various places around the countryside. Probably, worst of all was the fact that it was impossible for one to know who his friends were, as upstanding citizens by day were often thieves (or worse) by night.
The next thing that I know about the Fritts family is that Mary Jane Isabelle Frits married William Montgomery McConnell in Parker County, Texas early in year of 1865. I say early because of the “rest of the story.”
William McConnell was apparently in the Civil War; however, I have no record of when he enlisted. We do know that he and Belle married in 1865, and I assume that he was not wounded at that time. It is entirely possible that he was already serving when they married; however, I do not know that. Since Robert E. Lee surrendered in April of 1865, if he was not already enlisted when they married, he served a very short time.
Obviously, William returned from the war and lived with his wife for a while because the young couple had their first and only baby on September 22, 1866. They named her Sarah “Sadie” McConnell. The war had been over slightly less than eighteen months when baby Sadie was born.
According to family legend, there was something wrong with William. Some say he was hurt in the war, others that his mind was damaged. At some point, his parents told Mary Jane that she should go back to her parents and that they would keep William with them and take care of him. Later, a brother of William visited with Belle and told her that she should leave and make a new life for herself. In about 1867 or so, the Fritts family returned to northwest Arkansas; Belle went with them.
William Montgomery McConnell died in Parker County on May 14, 1871, at the age of twenty-seven. He was buried in Springtown, Texas. By this time, Belle was already married again…but I’m getting ahead of my story.
As we said last week, Mary Jane Isabelle McConnell moved back to Arkansas with the C.S. Fritts family and later married Robert Russell Lane in Arkansas. She was twenty-four, and her little Sadie was about four-years-old. Robert was 38; he had been married before and had four older children. These four, of course, became the step-children of Belle Fritts McConnell Lane.
There has been quite a bit of discussion in the various family lines about whether or not Belle knew that her husband was still alive at the time of her marriage. All I can say on the subject is that the years of the Civil War and Reconstruction were very strange years in this country. Belle was young with a husband who obviously did not want her or their young daughter. She left Texas at the command of her in-laws, expecting that her young husband would be dead soon and there was virtually no communication in this country at the time. I will leave it for those smarter than I to judge.
Of the children born to Robert and Belle Lane, it is Joe Neely Lane’s story that will eventually lead us down the Antioch Cemetery road in Comanche County. Joe Neely was born to the Lane’s in Comanche County, and he grew-up to marry a young woman named Carrie Brinson (according to “our” line, it was against her parents’ wishes).
Belle Fritts second husband, Robert Russell Lane, died in 1896 and was buried in the Zion Hill Cemetery, Comanche County. There is a Confederate marker in that cemetery to honor him as well as the other veterans of the Confederacy. Once again, Belle and her children were left alone.
Carrie Brinson was born March 3, 1883, to J.C. Brinson and M.E. Brinson. She married Joe Neely Lane and the couple had four children: Jewel, Fay, Jess, and Rob. Baby Rob was born December 21, 1907, and by February, his mother was dead at less than 27 years. It seems that the dreaded flu struck the Lane family, and Carrie, who was already weakened by childbirth, did not have the strength to withstand it. Her grieving family carried her to the Antioch Cemetery, where she was buried near her father who had died February 16, 1907.
It is beyond me, but apparently Joe Neely didn’t think he was able to care for the baby Rob, and he gave him to a woman who also had an infant. Well, when Grandma Belle heard this, she was having none of it! She swooped in, took the baby, and raised him herself.
Although the two homes were within “shouting distance” of each other, Rob lived with Belle until he was thirteen-years-old, when she told him that it was time he join his family in their home. By this time, the family had also buried Carrie’s mother at Antioch as well as an infant baby that was born to Joe and his second wife, “Lizzy” Elizabeth Hamilton.
Although the death of her daughter-in-law certainly did not end the story of our Belle, it does bring to a close our discussion of her, with one exception. In her later years, Mary Jane Isabelle Fritts McConnell Lane Roberson did an interview with a reporter for the Fort Worth Star Telegram. The article also appeared in the Comanche Chief. It was titled “Woman Roped Wild Cows For Milk.”
“Mrs. Belle Lane, 80, of Comanche, subject of this sketch, is a pioneer of Texas. She moved to Comanche County 52 years ago. Her maiden name was Fritts. She had five sisters and six brothers. Mrs. Lane says that before her marriage, she was wont to rope a wild cow, tie its hind feet so it could not kick, and then milk it. That was the only way she could get milk for the children.
“Mrs. Lane remembers well when a band of Indians made a raid upon white settlers in Parker County and killed a family of five, within a mile of her father’s home. The family [that was attacked by Indians] consisted of the father and mother, a small boy, a baby, and a girl about 12. Some months later, another band of Indians went to a house just across the road from her log cabin home, ripped open feather beds, scattering the feathers in the wind to frighten the people into giving them foodstuff.
“As a child, Mrs. Lane dreaded to see a full moon, as it [was] always on the light of the moon that the Indians made their raids.
“This octogenarian says she has often driven oxen to the plow and wagon, and thought herself quite fortunate not to have them stolen by the Indians. Being a widow with small children to support, she did the plowing to make the crops, and butchered her own hogs to make her Winter meat.
“Mrs. Lane has had 112 descendants, 107 of which are still living.
“When asked what was the most thrilling occurrence in her life, she replied: ‘I believe it was when my granddaughter’s twins were born. They are the only twins in my family, and then, too, they were my great-granddaughters, but I now have two great-great-grandchildren. This is not the first time that I have figured in the fifth generation. My father and grandfather both lived to see their fifth generation.’”
Mary Jane Isabelle Fritts McConnell Lane Roberson died in 1936. Her great-grandchildren still remember her with very fond memories. She lies beside her second husband, Robert Russell Lane, and is buried with the name of Lane per the request of her children even though her surname was actually Roberson at the time of her death.
Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With The Wind, probably said it best. Those who survived the Civil War Era and managed to put their lives back together had “gumption.” Those who allowed life to beat them did not. Belle was one of the survivors and for that we here at Texansunited.com admire her. Yes, gumption…that says it all.